With eight games left and the Raiders slumping to a 2-7 record, it isn’t too early to start thinking about the 2023 NFL draft.
While the primary focus of coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler is on the rest of this season, there is significant attention on the roster improvements the team needs to make.
“We’re going to keep trying to work every week to win,” McDaniels said. “At the same time, we’re going to have one eye on what we need to do going forward to try to make this place a sustainable winner.”
The Raiders have nine picks in the April draft, and if the season ended today, they would have the second pick behind the Texans.
Of the Raiders’ needs, the most glaring are on the offensive and defensive lines, linebacker and the secondary.
And while Derek Carr is under contractual control through the 2025 season, the Raiders can opt out of the deal after the season, so they undoubtedly will do their due diligence on the quarterbacks in the class.
Here are some options for the Raiders at No. 2:
Bryce Young, Alabama; C.J. Stroud, Ohio State; Will Levis, Kentucky
Teams drafting in the top three are just as likely to end up with a Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston as a franchise quarterback such as Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow, so be wary of automatically calling for the Raiders to draft Carr’s replacement.
But if they are convinced one of the top quarterback prospects is a can’t-miss player, it behooves them to consider drafting him — either as the immediate replacement for Carr or to sit for one season behind him.
Will Anderson, defensive end, Alabama
The Raiders’ defensive line has not created enough pass-rush pressure, and a huge part of the problem is veteran edge rusher Chandler Jones not playing up to expectations. It’s all the more exasperating given how Maxx Crosby has pushed himself to an even higher level this season.
That is where Anderson could come into play. A true difference maker and an elite pass rusher, he would be a perfect counterpunch to Crosby coming off the opposite edge. His production this season — eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss — isn’t on last season’s pace of 17 sacks and 35 tackles for loss, but Anderson is being used a bit differently to make up for some of Alabama’s defensive issues, and opposing offenses are devising blocking schemes devoted to limiting his damage.
He’s still considered the best nonquarterback prospect, and some consider him the best player in the draft.
Other edge rushers: Myles Murphy, Clemson.
Jalen Carter, defensive tackle, Georgia
It’s been a long time since the Raiders had a dominant interior defensive lineman who can wreck a run game and wreak havoc as a pass rusher. They have had mediocre, nondifference-making players who man their positions more than they make impacts.
That’s the opposite of the capabilities of Carter, the best player on a dominant Georgia defense who stands up tall against the run and is more than enough of an athlete to create a push to the quarterback.
The presence of Carter would help Crosby immensely.
Other defensive tackles: Bryan Bresee, Clemson.
Peter Skoronski, offensive tackle, Northwestern
Aside from a three-game stretch earlier in the season, the Raiders’ offensive line has been a major weakness. The inability to consistently deliver top-notch run and pass blocking has limited the way McDaniels and Carr can attack defenses.
That said, while Skoronski is generally regarded as the best available offensive lineman, there are just enough factors that make selecting him second too big of a reach.
Mainly, the Raiders would be drafting him to play right tackle, which is not a position that teams traditionally invest that high of a pick. He also doesn’t have ideal arm length, which could mean eventually moving him to guard.
Skoronski projects to be an impact player at tackle or guard, and he’s a prospect to watch should the Raiders string together some wins and their draft spot drops.
Other offensive tackles: Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State; Olu Fashanu, Penn State.
While the Raiders’ core group is fairly strong, there are significant holes in the supporting cast.
The Raiders could consider dangling their pick, perhaps to a team in more immediate need of a quarterback, to secure additional draft assets.
Contact Vincent Bonsignore at email@example.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.
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